VeraCrypt is a popular free and open source file encryption software that encrypts disks and partitions. It has known usability issues which limit its reach to a wider audience. One way of improving its usability is to better support user mental models by changing the functionality description. We did a Cognitive Walkthrough with usability experts to test VeraCrypt’s interface and the effectiveness of an attempt to help ease use through a mental model builder (MMB) in the form of a short instructional text. They concluded that the MMB would be helpful for users. We also conducted a user study to verify VeraCrypt’s usability and to test the MMB with users. Before the MMB, participants were asked to secure a file using VeraCrypt and none were successful. After our MMB, 4/5 participants were able to achieve at least one sub-task, with two successfully completing the entire task. However, the MMB was more successful with users with tech backgrounds, suggesting that a more detailed MMB would have been better for average users.

Usable cybersecurity, Usable encryption, User and expert testing
Communications in Computer and Information Science
School of Computer Science

Spero, E. (Eric), Stojmenović, M. (Milica), & Biddle, R. (2019). Helping Users Secure Their Data by Supporting Mental Models of VeraCrypt. In Communications in Computer and Information Science. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-23522-2_27